Thursday, December 5, 2013

thoughts on healing through anagama process and pottery

During the long years spent in the construction of my anagama kiln and  studio I asked myself if the path of a wood-firing studio potter is the best way that I can contribute to the spiritual progress of humanity.  During these years I invested myself heavily in bodywork and yoga, and became very aware of how direct contact through touch and movement helps people deeply.  I questioned whether the anagama process possesses enough direct contact to heal people? Are there too many interfering influences to assure that I am touching people with a healing purity?  etc.  Now that my kiln is up and running and I've had a couple of years of firings I see a lot of the answers to my existential questions about healing humanity manifesting throughout the process.

It's really easy to see how the firing process brings people together around a powerfully focused natural force.  Anagamas are magnetic and half the people on my firing crew have no other ties to the clay community than their dedication to firing.  People want to be a part of the firing process in so many ways, and they themselves are transformed along with the pottery.  These social observations are spiritually worthwhile, easy to see, and keep me motivated.  However, I've had a tougher time figuring out what to do about the pots themselves: the product of this process.  

I was imprinted with the  "Process not product" mantra by my professor in the very first week of Clay 101 and that creed easily led me down the path of anagama work.   Now, over ten years later and just embarking on a ceramic career, selling the product is a necessity.  How does the manufactured product of the anagama process guide people on a spiritual path, and how can anagama pottery justify itself in a world of mass-produced commodities?  I believe anagama clay works stand apart because they tell their story plainly and have little to hide.  Most manufactured products are designed and marketed in ways that obscure their origins and making processes.  Most products have unsettling stories to tell and we've become accustomed to turning a blind eye to the backgrounds of the objects that surround us.  

In anagama work one can easily see the original materials and process of its making, and the work invites the user to ask more questions: questions about geology, ecology, and about the people in one's community who form and fire these ceramic works.  Hopefully this will lead the owners of these works to ask more questions about the interconnectedness of their lives with the world around them and will perhaps lead them to make more discerning decisions as they appreciate all that goes into creating beauty in our world.